ESTHER, his wife
ZEBEDEE, his father
SCENES: ALL IN THE HOUSE OF JAMES
ANNOUNCER: Centuries ago on the shore of the Lake of Galilee lived a humble
fisherman, James the son of Zebedee. For many years the routine of his life
had been the same: rising at dawn, putting forth onto the lake, returning at
twilight with the day's catch, drying and mending the nets. At home his wife,
Esther, followed a routine of her own, sewing, weaving, preparing the frugal
meals, and tending to the needs of their children.
Now, one evening, when James had returned from his day's fishing, and the
evening meal was over, Esther came into the little home, bearing water from
the well, and noticed her husband sitting very quietly, staring into the
ESTHER: What are you looking for, James?
JAMES: There's a man down there by the boats. I wonder if he's looking for me?
ESTHER: If he is, let him come up here. Hm-m, I see him now. He's ragged
enough to be a beggar.
JAMES: He doesn't look like a beggar.
ESTHER: There! He's going away down the shore. I'm glad of it, too. I don't
trust people who have nothing to do but walk around looking at other people's
boats. Just as likely as not, he means to steal one when it's dark enough.
JAMES: He didn't look like a thief.
ESTHER: I saw him this morning, and I tell you I suspected him then!
ESTHER: Well, he was standing--looking, looking out to sea--just the way you
were doing when I came in--and in the middle of the morning, when honest
people are at work!
JAMES: He may have work, for all that we know.
ESTHER: Work! Wandering up and down the shore? Huh, if that's work-- There!
You're staring again. James, what's the matter with you this evening? You've
been so quiet--and you've hardly spoken to me.
JAMES: I--I was thinking.
ESTHER: Thinking! At this time of night I'm too tired to think. I should think
you would be, too. There! Let's light the light, and you'll feel more
cheerful. You should be cheerful, with the good catch you made to-day. You
haven't done so well for weeks! And I'm sure it came just in time, with all
the mouths you have to feed!
JAMES: Esther, you mustn't be vexed with me if I just sit here quietly--
ESTHER: It's not very pleasant for me.
JAMES: I know it's not. I just can't help myself to-night.
ESTHER: What is the matter with you?
JAMES: I don't know. I don't know myself.
ESTHER: You're tired, dear. You need to rest. I won't talk to you.
JAMES: No. I wish you would. I wish I could talk to you. I wish I could tell
you--everything that's seething round inside of me.
ESTHER: Why, you're talking wildly.
JAMES: It's so hard to explain. I don't know that you'd understand--
ESTHER: I've understood you for a good many years. I've tried to, James--
JAMES: I know that. But this is something-- something different. The trouble
is, I don't know what it is myself--that is, I can't put my finger on it,
ESTHER: Well, you can try.
JAMES: It's like this: Sometimes when I'm out there on the lake, alone at
dawn, or at twilight, when everything is very still, and the lake so quiet you
hardly dare to dip an oar in it--and you see the lights of the village on the
shore--and you hear voices; mothers calling their children, and laughter,
sometimes quarrelling--you begin to wonder if this is everything; working,
sleeping--dying--whether there isn't something beyond all this, something very
beautiful that none of us see. Something we catch a glimpse of, perhaps, for
just a moment--and then lose.
ESTHER: Well, James, if that's all you're thinking about--! Why, sometimes I
have thoughts like that. But where would we all come to if we let it worry us?
We're here for something, and we do what there is to do. Ha, ha! You'd better
turn beggar, James, like that fellow we saw by the shore, and then you'll have
plenty of time to think, and--
JAMES: Esther, don't laugh at me! I couldn't stand that to-night. I'd rather
have you angry. Don't you think I've tried to get rid of these thoughts? Why,
I tell you sometimes I've picked up my oars and rowed, and rowed until I
dropped down exhausted, just to escape from them--to stifle them with fatigue.
But they come back. They come back.
ESTHER: Well, James, I suppose that as long as you catch enough fish to
support your family, you're entitled to think anything you wish to; only I
wish you'd do your thinking out on the lake; because, really, it makes the
house very gloomy to have you do it here. Perhaps I do a little thinking on my
own account, when you're safely out of the way--but I try to have a smile for
you when you come home.
JAMES: You're a good woman, Esther; and I'm beginning to think there's
something wrong with me. But the trouble is this: I'm not gloomy, and they're
not depressing thoughts. No. Sometimes I'm exalted, as though I had discovered
the secret to everything--and then it eludes me, and I come right back to
where I started, working, laughing, dying-- Isn't there something else?
ESTHER: There's bed, and I think you'd better go there, because you have an
early start and a long day ahead of you.
JAMES: Yes, I know.
ZEBEDEE (off): Hullo--Hullo, James--
ESTHER: There's your father. Don't let him keep you up too late. You know what
it's like when he starts talking! [Knocking.] Come in, Father Zebedee--
ZEBEDEE: I hoped I'd find you up, James.
ESTHER: He's very tired, father.
ZEBEDEE: Tut, tut! The evening's still young. You can't put me off that way.
What's life good for, if all you do is get up and go to bed? Somehow to-night
I feel as young as a boy!
ESTHER: You haven't been working all day; James has.
ZEBEDEE: You see, I've been talking to the most--a most unusual man. I don't
know when I've met a person who seemed to--why, you can't help loving him! I
was sitting on the shore, and everything looked very gloomy. I was very angry
at Simon, for selling me a coat at too high a price, and every moment I was
getting more and more angry, and thinking up ways to get even with Simon; and
this man came along. And I don't know what it is that he said; in fact, I
can't seem to remember anything that he did say. Just simple talk--the
weather, people, that sort of thing. But all of a sudden I felt--well, I felt
rid of my anger, and I felt like smiling and-- You know, he smiled. I think it
was his smile that--that did something to me--I seemed to understand how
ridiculous my anger was.
ESTHER: You're talking just like James, Father Zebedee. I'll leave you two
alone together, because I've got my work to do to-morrow, and I can't sit up
all night and talk. Good-night. And James, you have to start early to-morrow.
JAMES: Yes, father.
ZEBEDEE: What are you so quiet for?
JAMES: Nothing, father.
ZEBEDEE: Weren't you listening to me?
JAMES: Yes, I heard you. I'd like to feel that way, too; rid of everything
that bothers me--understanding everything that gnaws at me. I'd like to meet a
man whose smile would do that for me.
ZEBEDEE: Been quarrelling?
JAMES: No, father.
ZEBEDEE: I just wondered. What did she mean, talking just like you?
JAMES: Oh, before you came in, we were talking. I'm afraid Esther thinks I'm
discontented with her--with my home, with my work, with everything--
ZEBEDEE: Well, James, we all get discouraged.
JAMES: It's not that. I'm not discouraged. But didn't you ever feel that this
isn't everything, this waking and sleeping, working, raising children,--didn't
you ever catch a glimpse of something--I don't know how to tell you, but--
ZEBEDEE: Yes, I've felt that way, too, son. A good many times--but that was
years and years ago. When you're as old as I am, you'll just accept things--
you won't go on questioning and seeking, because it's too hard, and a man gets
tired as the years pile on him. Yes, tired.
JAMES: But I must seek, father; I must! I must go on--eager, unsatisfied,
harassed--tortured even! Questioning what it is that lies beyond this flesh of
mine; the thing that gives flashes of its beauty to me--and then is gone.
ZEBEDEE: Take my advice, James. It will bring you nothing but heartaches, this
questioning of yours. I've been through it--and I know. Take things as they
come. Accept--don't question. Nobody is going to come along to answer your
questions. You can be sure of that.
ZEBEDEE: There--she's calling. I know what that means. She wants me to go.
Remember what I said, son. Nobody's going to answer your questions--and you'll
never find out for yourself. Good night.
ANNOUNCER: The night passes, and at dawn James goes down to his boat, to make
it ready for the day's fishing. Esther finds herself alone, for as soon as
breakfast is over the children have scampered out of the house into the early
morning sunlight. Busy with her housework, she hears a knock on the door, and
a cheery voice calling, "Good morning."
ESTHER: There! As though there were nothing to do but to come visiting at this
time in the morning! Yes, Father Zebedee, what is it?
ZEBEDEE: Oh, it's nothing particular. Just good morning to you.
ESTHER: You won't mind if I just go on working?
ZEBEDEE: Not at all, Esther. I enjoy seeing people work.
ESTHER: James started yet?
ZEBEDEE: No. He's talking to a man down on the shore.
ESTHER: Well! That's not like him. He's usually the first man out on the lake.
He'll lose his place on the fishing ground.
ZEBEDEE: Oh, there's lots of lake, Esther. And you know--that man he's talking
ESTHER: Why, it's that beggar! And the children! (Calls.) Children! Come here
ZEBEDEE: They don't hear you, Esther.
ESTHER: Father! You go right down and tell them I want them to come back to
the house. Why--
ZEBEDEE: Let 'em stay where they are. They're not coming to any harm.
ESTHER: Why, look! They're in his lap and--and James is sitting there with his
mouth open, as though he'd lost his wits!
ZEBEDEE: Esther, you go down there, too, and you won't come home.
ESTHER: I will go down! And I'll bring the children home, since you won't. And
I'll give James a good scolding. Why, look! All the other boats are out, and
he's still sitting!
ZEBEDEE: Esther, James is coming back here to the house.
ESTHER: So he is! And that beggar--he's got in James' boat! And the children
are smiling--and waving their hands at him-
ZEBEDEE: Esther, he has a gentle face.
ESTHER: I never judge people by the way they look. I don't understand why they
keep crowding round him--unless he's giving them something--
ZEBEDEE: He's telling them a story; see, they're smiling--and nodding their
ESTHER: Well, I'll say one thing: I never saw them stand so still for so long.
They won't listen to me.
ESTHER: Well, James--why aren't you out on the lake? All the other boats have
JAMES: I'm not fishing this morning.
ESTHER: Not fishing! What do you mean?
JAMES: I'm going to take that man across the lake.
ESTHER: Is he going to pay you?
JAMES: I didn't ask him.
ESTHER: Well! I don't think you have the time to go rowing people across the
lake for nothing!
JAMES: He has to go to the other shore--and he asked me to take him.
ESTHER: And you just said, yes?
JAMES: There's no one else to take him--and he says he must go--and that it's
ESTHER: He hasn't anything important to do! Why, look at him--does he look
like a man who has important things to do?
JAMES: He told me it's on his father's business--and I'm going to take him,
ESTHER: And miss a day's fishing?
JAMES: I'll work late into the night.
ZEBEDEE: Ha, ha, Esther! I told you there was something about that man!
ESTHER: Well, I wish he'd never come here! I think he's cast a spell on you
ZEBEDEE: And on the children, too, Esther.
ESTHER: What are you doing, James!
JAMES: He needs food. I am getting him some.
ESTHER: Why, we have hardly enough for ourselves!
JAMES: We have enough to share with him.
ESTHER: Shall we feed every beggar that comes along?
JAMES: This man is no common beggar!
ESTHER: Has he turned your head by promising you a great sum for rowing him
across the lake?
JAMES: He has promised me nothing.
ESTHER: Why--why are you doing this for him?
JAMES: He asked me. That is all.
ESTHER: Take him, then--if you have the time to spare from your work; if me
have so much you can give it away; if you wish to come back tonight empty-
handed, and eat a crust of bread; for there'll be nothing else if you give
your day to this beggar. And nothing else for me and for the children-- If you
want to put this man before us--
JAMES: Don't reproach: me. I mean to take him across the lake. I shall be back
ZEBEDEE: He's gone, Esther. No use trying to call him back. He's made up his
mind. I can tell by the look of him.
ESTHER: What's come over him? I can't understand--I can't understand.
ANNOUNCER: James takes the stranger across the lake, and returns at twilight.
The journey has consumed more time than he expected, and he has had no time to
lower his nets. In the morning he picks up again the routine of his fishing.
Several days pass. Again we come upon the little house at twilight. Esther is
waiting, for James has not returned from his work, and she looks through the
open door in the hope that she may see his sail rounding the point--
ZEBEDEE (entering): Any sign of him?
ESTHER: No. All the other boats are in. He's hardly ever been so late as this.
Why, the children had been in bed for an hour--and his supper's been on the
table so long it's cold!
ZEBEDEE: Don't worry. He'll be along soon.
ESTHER: What is keeping him!
ZEBEDEE: There! Don't worry. He knows his way home.
ESTHER: Father Zebedee-
ESTHER: James has been different the last day or two. Haven't you noticed it?
ZEBEDEE: No. I can't say that I have.
ESTHER: He's been so gentle with me and with the children. I suppose he's felt
bad for having wasted a day rowing that beggar across the lake--and now he's
making up for it. Do you know, the children are always asking about that man--
when he's coming back. They don't seem to forget him.
ZEBEDEE: I know. They're always asking me, and I don't know what to tell them.
Funny, their remembering him.
ESTHER: You know what the little one calls him, Father Zebedee? "The Kind
Man." Strange, a child saying that.
ZEBEDEE: The baby said that? Why--why, that just about describes him. The Kind
Man. Well, well! I never should have thought of that, and yet it's perfect.
Children sometimes hit the truth.
ESTHER: Oh, I wish James would come home! It's getting so dark, and there's a
wind rising on the lake.
ZEBEDEE: Oh, don't worry.
ESTHER: Listen! You can hear the waves beating on the shore.
ZEBEDEE: James has a stout boat.
ESTHER: Oh, father, sometimes when I look out on that dark lake I think: "What
if he should not come back to me? What if I should lose him?"
ZEBEDEE: There--you're not going to lose him; don't work yourself up.
ESTHER: Men are lost out yonder.
ZEBEDEE: Not good sailors like James.
ESTHER: Look, father--look! Is that a sail out there in the dark?
ZEBEDEE: Looks like a ghost, doesn't it?
ESTHER: It's his boat. (Calls.) James!
ZEBEDEE: He can't hear you. There's too much wind.
ESTHER: I see it now. He's made the landing. There! I shouldn't have worried.
ZEBEDEE: I told you so all along.
ESTHER: I'll have to get wood for the fire--there's none here. If he's damp
and cold tell him there's a warm coat behind the door.
ZEBEDEE: You go and get the wood. I'll tell him.
[Exit ESTHER; a pause, then JAMES enters.]
ZEBEDEE: Well, James, Esther was getting worried about you. Better change your
coat--you're soaking wet.
JAMES: Where's Esther?
ZEBEDEE: She's fetching wood.
ZEBEDEE: What's the trouble? Why, James! You look on fire with something! Like
a man who's seen vision!
JAMES: Father, I have!
ZEBEDEE: Have what?
JAMES: Seen a vision!
ZEBEDEE: James, you'll frighten Esther--looking so, so wild--
JAMES: Oh, father, I have something to tell her, and yet I hardly dare--and
yet I must--to-night--now--
ZEBEDEE: Bad news?
JAMES: Is it bad news when a man finds that for which he has been looking?
ZEBEDEE: She's coming, James. Why, you look tortured! What is this thing you
must tell her?
JAMES: Something that she will not understand, for all her love of me--
something that no one will understand.
ZEBEDEE: What has happened to you out there on the lake?
JAMES: I have found--God.
ZEBEDEE: Found God? You're mad, James--talking this way. Get into your coat,
and talk like a reasonable man. She's at the door. Get hold of yourself, man!
ESTHER: James, my dear--you were so late, and the night was so dark, and the
storm rising in the east, and the waves on the shore--I was worried. But
you're here now. Safe. There. I have you again-- [Takes JAMES in her arms.]
JAMES: Father, will you leave us?
ZEBEDEE: I'll go, James, but don't say things you're going to be sorry for.
Don't worry her any more by talking wild, as you did to me. Good night, my
JAMES: Good night, father.
ESTHER: He's gone. I'm glad of it. We're alone together.
JAMES: Esther, I must tell you something--
ESTHER: Why do you look at me as though your heart were torn?
JAMES: It is.
ESTHER: Put by your worries. Is there no peace for you here after the fretful
JAMES (to himself): I must tell her now!
ESTHER: James, why do you mutter and stare at me wildly?
JAMES: Do you believe that I love you?
ESTHER: I do. Why should I doubt? Because we sometimes quarrel? Those things
JAMES: Perhaps you will doubt when I tell you--
ESTHER: You frighten me!
JAMES: I--I must leave you.
ESTHER: Leave me? I don't understand.
JAMES: I must make you understand!
ESTHER: How can you, when your eyes are full of such a strange wild light?
JAMES: This afternoon--late--just before twilight, I put into shore, and a man
came towards my boat, calling my name. The selfsame man I carried across the
ESTHER: That man again! Does he want you to take him across again, and at this
hour of night?
JAMES: Esther, listen--listen to me. As I stood there, he approached close to
me, and laid his hand upon my shoulder, and as I felt his hand upon my arm I
seemed to faint, as though with a great weakness, and I heard his voice, as in
a dream: "James, son of Zebedee, lay down your net, and follow me."
ESTHER: Follow him---where?
JAMES: I do not know. I did not ask. I answered: "Yes, master."
ESTHER: "Master"--to a beggar?
JAMES: I tell you he is no beggar!
ESTHER: What is his name?
JAMES: I do not know his name. I only know he comes from Nazareth.
ESTHER: You're following this Nazarene--this man who--
JAMES: He is not man. He--
ESTHER: James, James! Now I know. You're mad!
JAMES: No. Now I see all things clearly.
ESTHER: Clearly! I see them, too! You hate me, or you wouldn't leave me.
JAMES: I love you, for now I know what love means.
ESTHER: Don't you dare to speak of love! Deserting me--and your children--have
you thought of that?
JAMES: I have thought of that.
ESTHER: James, it isn't true! Tell me it isn't. You are--are making this up,
and in a moment you'll laugh--you'll hold me in your arms--
JAMES: He has called me, and I must follow him wheresoever he may lead me.
ESTHER: No. I cannot believe you. Look--look at that room where your children
are sleeping. Look there, and tell me you're leaving us! You can't.
JAMES: Perhaps they will understand; perhaps they will understand--for they,
too, call him Master and love him.
ESTHER: Are you mad? Am I dreaming? Yes! Tomorrow the sun will be shining, the
children will hold your hands--we'll wave good-bye as you set sail for the
day's work and--
JAMES: Esther, don't you--can't you--understand? I have been called to another
work--to make people see the light I have seen.
ESTHER: The light? You are only bringing darkness to my heart. Where is this
JAMES: He is outside, waiting for me.
ESTHER: I will speak to him!
JAMES: Yes, yes--perhaps you will understand--
ESTHER: I'll drive him--
JAMES: Wait--I hear a hand upon the door--
ESTHER: Yes! Come in!
ESTHER: I will not be silent! [Knocking again.] Open the door, James. Open the
[JAMES opens the door. A great light floods the room.]
ESTHER: James--the light--the light on his face!--
JAMES: He motions to me--
ESTHER: And your face, my husband--there is a light upon your face! It fills
me with wonder and with fear--
JAMES: He goes. I must follow.
ESTHER: But you will come back to me?
JAMES: Yes. I will come back.
ESTHER: They are gone. Oh, my husband--my children! Now I understand you. It
was the face of God.
Originally broadcast: 22 May 1927
Written by William Ford Manley for
NBC's weekly half-hour anthology series,